Archive for April, 2012

Campaign for heart and mind

Voting will take place next week in the council elections. So this is the week the parties are giving their best shot at persuading the voter why it should be they.

Despite their leader trying to cwtch up to Labour, Plaid Cymru’s Local government spokesman Rhodri Glyn Thomas was donning his hob nails and well and truly putting the boot into the Labour Assembly government.

He was blaming Labour for not copying the SNP and making up the 10% cuts in council tax benefit that accompanied the devolving of such to the devolved countries.

He asserted that the Scottish Government had identified enough money to make up its own projected council tax benefit shortfall.  Rhodri Glyn Thomas  said that 

‘Labour’s failure to act could lead to a quarter of all Welsh households, including many pensioners, paying more council tax. This would risk plunging many of them into poverty and leave them unable to pay their bills or put food on the table.’   

Not much sweetness and light there then.

Ceretainly not a good start for his leaders wish for a love-in with Labour. She wants ‘an open conversation about how we can go about creating a real Welsh alternative.’  

A bit rich though to urge Labour to be ‘prepared to stop playing politics for narrow party political interests and to work with us to end tribal, politics can serve the people of Wales for better’ in the light of Rhodri Glyn’s comments. 

Alas, who said politicians had to be consistent.

Whilst talking about consistency, Peter Black, Shadow Welsh Liberal Democrat Local Government Minister criticised the Labour party and the Labour Government for taking the ’˜local’ out of local government in the run up to the local government elections. He was pointing out that Labour was attempting to hoodwink the voters, telling people to vote on the record of the Westminster government and not on local issues.

Surely not a thing that the Liberal Democrats have ever done. They’ve never mentioned student fees and the Iraq war when fighting these elections last time.

Rest easy there’s only another ten days of campaigning and then normal service will be resumed in the Assembly.

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Lord Richard ignored again

In 2004 the Labour peer Lord Richard produced a report  following a commission that he chaired that looked at devolution in Wales. Despite many sensible recommendations, it was ignored. 

Fast forward and today Lord Richard again produces a report. 

This time he was chairing a joint committee of peers and MPs looking at what’s to be done with the House of Lords. And despite many sensible suggestions it’s likely that this report too will be ignored.

Indeed his suggestions were only endorsed by a little over half of the committee. At least when he chaired his Welsh Commission there was unanimity well, almost. Lord Ted Rowlands did express some mild reservation in a letter. Not quite on the same scale as today’s revolt.

Certainly nothing that amounts to an alternative report that is Lord Richard’s fate today. And the thrust of the alternative report is that the government has not considered how to protect the primacy of the Commons.

Basically, they want the Commons to remain top dog. They fear that an elected House of Lords would pose a challenge and the poor Commoners would be undermined. 

Richards report broadly welcomed the government’s intentions but did flag up the need for a referendum after the legislation is passed and a need for the two Houses of Parliament to agree “a concordat” on their respective powers. 

It’s the idea of a referendum that has got MPs excited. Tory back benchers and a Labour say ‘yes.’ But Nick Clegg whose bill it is says ‘no.’  

And  David Cameron?  Aware of the feelings of many in his own party is firmly sitting on the fence. Cameron says he’s personally opposed to staging a referendum, but does not rule out holding one.  A touch of firm government there, then.

So what is likely to happen. A referendum you bet, with the hope that the whole lot will be kicked to touch.

After all who want to embrace the concept that a parliament should be made so sordid as to have the people elect its Members.

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Make them move north

Move half the Parliament to the North of England. That’s the idea of Lord Adonis for the House of Lords. He reckons that their Lordships ought to be moved, lock stock and barrel  out of the Palace of Westminster to be placed in some northern city.

It’s his view that there is too much concentration of power in London. And who can disagree. The South East of England has grown at the expensive of other parts of England and for that matter the UK has a whole.

But what’s true about London can also be said about Cardiff. There is an over concentration on the capital city at the expense of other parts of Wales. 

The city is prosperous and cosmopolitan and has the feel of a wealthy European capital. Good on it I say. It provides work for not only its own population but for the valleys. But I’d venture to say that it has now had lift off and doesn’t need to have a national political institution to sustain it. 

Despite voting no to an Assembly in 1997 Cardiff has greatly enjoyed the fruits of having the Senedd down in the Bay. But does it need it now? Unlikely. 

Wales doesn’t have a second chamber it can lift and move to Machynlleth so the whole shooting match would have to be moved. And why not? Wales would greatly benefit if our politicians had to up camp and move from the fleshpots of Cardiff to some place in the middle of Wales. 

If it happened it would soon become apparent that the transport infrastructure would need to be improved. The need to get to mid-Wales would concentrate the minds of our politicians just how badly travel in Wales is. 

It wouldn’t be long before our political class were pushing for new railway and road links  to their new place of work. And of course, not forgetting the new super highway of the Internet. 

Can you imagine them putting up with the slow connections and lack of mobile phone coverage that exists in most of mid -Wales. No, they’d be screaming at the providers if they couldn’t tweet and blog and generally let the world know of their work.

Whilst on the business of communications, just like a large part of the BBC in England has been forced to Salford it would then make sense to move junks of BBC Cymru/Wales news service to follow the Assembly to its new home. 

And think of that growing lobby industry what a boost they’d provide to economy of the area. They could hardly do their work without the development of new  bars  and restaurants.

So lets start the campaign to move the Senedd north from the Bay of Cardiff.

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